Religion took a double hit on the sporting field in recent days.First the NCAA banned messages embedded in eye-black–those stripes of glare-killing grease football players wear on their cheeks, and that Florida quaterback Tim Tebow imprinted with biblical verses.
The eye-black messages were not always religious–former USC star Reggie Bush displayed his hometown’s area code on his eye-black out of civic pride–and the NCAA says its ban is not aimed at any one player. But the ban now leaves only a players’ hair for incorporating Bible passages into their look.
Meanwhile, the Brigham Young University women’s rugby team has sent their own religious message. If the team makes it into the round of 16 teams playing for the collegiate rugby championship, as is expected, the BYU team will forfeit their quarterfinal match because it is slated to be played on Sunday. No teams at the Mormon school play on the Christian sabbath. The rugby authorities had tried to accommodate the Cougars, but “an oversight,” said a USA Rugby official, scheduled the quarterfinal for Sunday.
There’s no telling how many players have to make the decision to play against the demands of their faith each Saturday across the country. As we become a more religiously diverse nation, it’s unimaginable that we could accommodate all of them. It will come as cold comfort to BYU’s players that they stand up for many when they refuse to take the field. Iin some ways the testament make as a team may be the most sporting moment of their lives.